Brexit and Organic Certification - the need to know
Brexit and Organic Certification
Keeping you informed
Having consulted with our licensees and trade stakeholders, we're very aware of the uncertainties and concerns surrounding organic trade in the post-Brexit environment. As the UK’s largest organic certifier, where possible, we want to reassure and support businesses in making important commercial decisions in the coming months.
Although the transitional period announced last March means we anticipate some breathing space, with no final confirmation of a Brexit deal at this time, we're continuing to look at solutions.
Implications of a no deal Brexit
The UK Government Technical Paper on Organic Production and Labelling released in August provides some clarity on what would happen should the UK leave the EU without a deal.
Standards and control: If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without a deal, we would continue to maintain existing high standards and control bodies would continue certifying UK organic operators for UK trade.
Acceptance of goods from the EU: Continuing acceptance of EU organic products would be at the UK’s discretion and the UK would also continue to recognise countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan and South Korea, who are currently recognised by the EU.
Exporting to the EU: UK businesses would only be able to export to the EU if by the 29th March, either the UK is recognised as an approved third country, or they are certified by an organic control body who has obtained approval by the EU to operate in the UK. Find out more about the implications of a no deal Brexit on export
Labelling – EU Markets: Where the above conditions to export organic food & drink to the EU are met, the EU organic logo will continue to be optional on organic goods export into the EU.
Labelling – UK Market: The EU organic logo must not be used on any UK organic products, unless the UK and EU reach an equivalency arrangement before exit day, or the final UK operator is certified by an organic control body recognised and approved by the EU to operate in the UK. Products already placed on the UK market on or before 29 March can continue to be sold until the stocks are exhausted. Where placed on the UK market after 29 March 2019 and where (as a result of EU exit) the information is technically incorrect, the UK government will encourage enforcement officers to take a pragmatic approach to enforcement, which fully protects the interests of consumers while ensuring industry are able to manage the scale of labelling changes required.
Wider government guidance on food and drink labelling in the event of a no deal Brexit, (e.g. transition time for GI claims and contact details) have been updated. Read the update
Import and export registration: As we are retaining EU regulation in UK law there are no plan to introduce substantive policy changes, the certification and traceability of organic food and feed products will continue to be required. The UK are implementing an interim paper-based imports traceability system, to replace the current EU electronic TRACES NT system. No registration will be required, but UK based importers should inform export suppliers of new documentation requirements. Although not currently possible, UK exporters exporting to the EU will in future be required to register on the EU TRACES NT system.
For agriculture and food businesses who would like more general information on no deal preparation for business, including port clearance, EORI and product licences, the government have published guidance in the form of a short video on YouTube.
Activity from Defra and other international organic bodies
DEFRA are progressing statutory instruments (enforcement and regs) ready to support the withdrawal bill regarding organic regulations being embedded in UK Law. DEFRA are also progressing equivalence deals with non-EU international trading partners including the USA, Australia and Canada. These cannot be formalised before 28 March, but nations can sign letters of intent. Find out more about Brexit implications for export
Our progress to-date
We have applied for 1235 scope extension for UK to the EU Commission, are investigating setting up in the Republic of Ireland as an accredited certification body and are establishing partnerships to improve access to key non-EU markets, once we are outside the EU. Find out more about the process
Call to action
We're calling for DEFRA to negotiate with EU alternative unconventional options if necessary. This could include unilateral acceptance of organic imports from the UK by the EU, in recognition and consideration of the interdependency of the organic supply chain across the EU. Our preference is that the UK Government apply for the UK as a whole to be deemed a country of equivalency under Annex 3 of Regulation 1235/2008.
Both of the above options are complex and time consuming due to EU approval processes, but we are calling for both to be fast tracked in this unprecedented situation.
We will continue to lobby and high level of public debate to keep pressure on UK and EU to avoid no deal scenario, and are asking for the sector to support an IFOAM positioning paper currently being drafted to lobby the EU Commission.
We will maintain our ongoing dialogue with DEFRA to clarify their process in managing the EU discussion and reaching a solution to achieve continuity for organic trade between EU and UK. We are also calling on DEFRA to clarify plans for Certificate of Inspection required for export to EU and progress with testing an import system to replace TRACES from 29 March. In addition, we will press on with our Republic of Ireland application.
We acknowledge that businesses need to continue to consider contingency such as stock piling critical long-life ingredients, to mitigate supply challenges during early weeks of a potential no deal Britain.